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Kemp says Georgia's new election law isn't disenfranchising voters

Kemp signed Senate Bill 202 last Thursday, and the criticism followed shortly after.

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp is in defense of the controversial voting law that has put the state's election process in the national spotlight once again.

Kemp signed Senate Bill 202 last Thursday, and the criticism followed shortly after.

Advocacy groups and many community leaders quickly called the law another act of "voter suppression" that would impact minority communities. However, Kemp said people aren't paying attention to the details of the final bill. 

"That’s the problem, people aren’t doing that," he said.

"This bill gives the people more opportunities to vote," Kemp, currently on self-quarantine after COVID exposure, claimed. "It’s not disenfranchising anyone."

In an interview with 11Alive on Wednesday, Kemp went over some of the provisions in the new law. One example he gave is that the measure would require all counties to have drop boxes that voters can use for absentee ballots. He said last year was the first time counties used them.

"It requires counties that didn’t have them the last election to have them, which didn’t happen before," Kemp explained. "Also, it's going to speed up the process from an election officials' standpoint. It’s going to make it easier on them to count the absentees using the voter ID instead of the arbitrary signature match, which is a very cumbersome process. So, I would urge people to really understand what’s in the bill and not listen to the rhetoric out there."

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Those in opposition say the changes will negatively impact voters. They believe the bill will mostly impact urban counties with more Democrats.  

Outside of requiring an ID number, like a driver’s license, to apply for an absentee ballot, the bill also cuts off absentee ballot applications 11 days before an election. It limits the number of absentee ballot drop boxes; allows the state to take control of what it calls “underperforming” local election systems; and disallows volunteers from giving away food and drink to voters waiting in lines.

"Why are these individuals standing this long where they would need food and drink that’s outrageous to me," Kemp said. "We should be moving those individuals through fast enough where they don’t need food or water. This bill addresses that.

Kemp said people can still order food while they wait in line.

"But we’re not going to let candidates or third-party groups that have an agenda electioneer people while they’re in line within 150 feet from the polling location or 25 feet at the end of the line," the governor said.

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Three lawsuits have been filed regarding SB 202. 

"This law is voter suppression plain and simple," said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. "Aimed at making it harder for Black and Brown and other historically disenfranchised communities to have a voice in our democracy."

Several opponents of the law are also putting more pressure on the state and threatening to boycott Georgia and some of the biggest corporations based here.